AMBITIOUS plans to give a dated town centre square a multi-million pound makeover are forging ahead.

Phil Turner, Conservative leader on Basildon Council, has said proposals to create a “leisure square”, opposite Brooke House, in Basildon, are firmly back on the agenda.

Bars, restaurants and a cinema will be brought into the town centre to compete with Basildon’s out-of-town Festival Leisure Park.

The Echo can reveal the row of shops, which includes the former Post Office building, will be knocked down to create a bigger square.

A deal will also be struck to buy the row of shops opposite Brooke House – as they are part of the recentlyacquired Freedom House.

The whole plan could cost in the region of between £25million and £30million and the council says it will create a vibrant night time economy for the town.

Mr Turner said: “This is an opportunity to turn an empty space into a major town centre feature. We can’t wait for the rot to set in, so that is why we are taking this initiative forward.

“If we don’t make an investment soon it could end up being too late..”

The idea of turning the square into a hotbed of night-time activity was rubber-stamped with the £1billion Basildon Town Centre Masterplan in December 2012.

Last year, a £6.7million bid to buy Freedom House and the parade of shops in East Walk failed and the properties have since been sold to pension company Appollo. The Echo understands the firm indicated it will invest in East Walk, but Basildon Council would have to buy the row of shops at the front of the parade, overlooking East Square, from them.

The council would borrow cash to finance the plans, then make the money back by renting out the units.

If it all goes to plan, the revamped square would have a row of bars and restaurants and cinema beforehand.

The proposals will go to the authority’s cabinet on July 17 to allocate cash for the next planning stage, but the project is unlikely to be completed before 2016.